If This is Top Art Therapy News…

…then we’re in trouble. Found through a google news search, this is one of the top articles on art therapy.

Let us distinguish art therapy from art expression…or simply, blowing off some stream through art making. As awareness of our profession increases, I’d expect that the misuse of the term art therapy will increase as well, which is why it’s important to stay firmly rooted in the definition of what art therapy is.

Art therapy is not only about self expression. It’s about understanding and working with one or several paradigms rooted in psychological theory, and then integrating those paradigms with:

  • The way the art work is created (materials and tools that are used)
  • The way the art work is explored between the client, therapist and/or group

  • From the AATA website: Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.

    Writing profane words over a picture can be art therapy. But, a group of people spontaneously using photoshop to insult or make a political statement is just that—art making for the sake of insult and statement making. Yes, it’s a form of self expression, but that is not art therapy.

    As professionals we need to stay true to the definition of what we do. Otherwise every rude and over-the-top form of self expression will be confused for the delicate, difficult and enlightening work that is art therapy.

    2 Replies to “If This is Top Art Therapy News…”

    1. Hello. I am in 11th grade and really interested in art therapy and hope to become one. I love to paint, and do most types of art, I have read numerous books on psychology and art therapy, and I was wondering what you might suggest that I read about or work on to become more familiar with it?


    2. Hi!

      I think one of the most powerful learning experiences you can have is through volunteer work. Working with an art therapist will be invaluable when it comes time to explore art therapy in depth through academic study.

      The best way to find an art therapist is to look up the art therapy association chapter in your state or province. From there, you most likely will have a way to either contact the chapter with general inquiries, or there may be email addresses of art therapist who work on the board of directors. In either case, shoot off an email and see what happens! The other thing you can do is do a google search “art therapy and your city/town” and see if anything shows up. You may find local art therapists who have websites or contact info, and you can ask directly whether they’re interested in having a volunteer.

      If you’re interested in books, you can certainly find an array on Amazon. Some are more readable than others…and I think it maybe more useful to stick with general art therapy books, rather than reading ones that focus in on a specific population. If you can get a hold of “Art Therapy Has Many Faces”, which is a video by Judy Rubin, I think that’s a pretty inspiring introduction to the field.

      Thanks for writing and good luck!
      – Liz

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